The American Chargé in China (Gauss) to the Chinese Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Wang)34

No. 824

Excellency: I have the honor to refer to Your Excellency’s note of September 27, 1934,33 concerning the death at Hankow in July, 1933, of one Chao Ch’ing-yün and the allegations of the Hankow Municipal Government that members of the crew of the U. S. S. Guam were implicated in the case.

I have now received an instruction from the Secretary of State,33 with which there was enclosed a copy of a statement of the findings of the Navy Department in regard to the case. The following résumé of the statement of the Navy Department is given for Your Excellency’s information:

Briefly stated, the facts as submitted by the Chinese authorities are that on the evening of July 11, 1933, at about 8:00 p.m., four Chinese were pushed from the Nord Deutsche Lloyd pontoon into the Yangtze River at Hankow by two enlisted men from the U. S. S. Guam. Three of the Chinese were rescued and the body of the fourth was discovered in the water on the morning of July 13 near the place where this affair had occurred.

[Page 707]

On July 14, 1933, a Naval Board of Investigation was convened on the U. S. S. Guam to inquire into the circumstances of the above affair and on July 31, 1933, a Court of Inquiry was convened for the same purpose. As thorough an investigation was made as was possible and from the evidence presented the Court of Inquiry made the following findings of facts and expressed the following opinions:

Findings of Facts

That from the best evidence available, namely the recorded testimony of Chinese witnesses before the Board of Investigation on 14 July, 1933, three Chinese named Kuang Tsao-hua, Liu Yuan Sung and Tang Hsien Fah were pushed into the Yangtze River, from the lower side of the N. D. L., causeway between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m., 11 July, 1933, by two foreigners, alleged to have been sailors; and that the three aforesaid Chinese were rescued from the river.
That a corpse was produced on 13 July, 1933.
That this corpse was examined by Lieutenant (junior grade) Charles M. Parker (Medical Corps), U. S. Navy, medical officer, U. S. S. Guam, who reported that the corpse was at least five days dead.
That this corpse was also examined by Doctor Horst Schneider, a German physician of Hankow, China, who stated in writing that the corpse might have been in the water three or four days.


That the corpse produced on 13 July, 1933, could not have been drowned on the evening of 11 July, 1933.
That not only were no American sailors identified but that the foreign sailors were not even identified as Americans.
That there is insufficient evidence to substantiate a charge before a court-martial against any enlisted man of the U. S. S. Guam.

The Navy Department concurs in the above findings and opinions for the reasons hereafter discussed. No American sailors were identified by any witnesses and the evidence does not reasonably establish that the persons responsible for the alleged assault were from the U. S. S. Guam. In this connection five Chinese, who are alleged to have witnessed the affair, testified before the Naval Board of Investigation. Kuang Tsao-hua was the only one of these witnesses to testify that the men who pushed the Chinese into the water were from the Guam.

His testimony concerning this feature was as follows:

“Q. Relate to me any unusual occurrence that you saw while going ashore in this runway?

[Page 708]

“A. As I was going ashore I saw nothing unusual. The only unusual thing that occurred was to myself. A sailor from the gunboat pushed me into the water.

“Q. How do you know it was a sailor from the gunboat?

“A. The only reason was that there was only one gunboat tied up at Hankow.”

An examination of the Log of the U. S. S. Guam for July 11, 1933, shows that the following foreign government vessels were at Hankow on that date:

H. M. S. Bee, Cumberland, Falcon, Aphis, Gannet;

R. F. S. Algov, Francis Gamier, H. I. J. M. S. Hodga;

R. C. S. Yung Sui, Teh Sheng, Weh Sheng.

Tan Hsien Fah, one of the men who was pushed off the dock, testified before the Board and stated as follows with reference to the men who are alleged to have committed the assaults:

“Q. Did they have anything on their heads?

“A. They had hats.

“Q. What kind of hats?

“A. White hats.

“Q. Were they large hats or small hats?

“A. They were like neither of those hats. (The witness indicated with his finger a U. S. Navy Officer’s white hat and enlisted man’s white hat).”

The above evidence not only raises considerable doubt as to the nationality of the sailors who are alleged to have pushed the Chinese from the dock, but strongly indicates that they were not American sailors.

In addition to the foregoing, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Charles M. Parker, Medical Corps, U. S. Navy, testified before the Board of Investigation and Court of Inquiry that he had examined the body that was produced on July 13, 1933, and was of the opinion that the deceased had been in the water for about five days. This witness also identified a report made by Dr. Horst Schneider, a civilian physician of Hankow, in which Dr. Schneider stated: “My opinion is that he may have been in the water 3–4 days because his body was in a stage of decomposition.” This medical testimony quite definitely indicates that Chao Ch’ing-yün was not one of the Chinese pushed into the water on the night of July 11, as less than two days had elapsed since this alleged occurrence and the finding of the body.

With reference to the evidence and arguments submitted by the Chinese authorities, in the Note dated September 13, 1933, of the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China to the United States Minister to China, it is stated that— [Page 709]

“The fact that the Chinese citizen Chao Ch’ing-yün was pushed by an American sailor into the water and was drowned has been proved by the testimony given by a policeman on duty at the jetty who witnessed the incident, the remaining three Chinese citizens who were pushed into the water at the same time, and two boatmen who rescued them from the water.”

This statement does not accurately set forth the reports and testimony of the persons named.

The report submitted by the policeman mentioned above stated that while he was on his post a passerby reported that two American sailors on returning to their gunboat pushed four Chinese into the water. This policeman did not witness the affair. Of the three Chinese who were rescued, only Kuang Tsao-hua made any reference to a fourth person and but one of the boatmen reported that he saw a fourth person in the water. Neither Kuang Tsao-hua nor the boatmen identified this person.

Upon careful consideration of all the evidence obtained in connection with the alleged assaults upon the four Chinese on July 11, 1933, and the alleged resultant drowning of Chao Ch’ing-yün, the Navy Department is of the opinion that this evidence is entirely insufficient to support the contention of the Chinese authorities that United States naval personnel were responsible for the drowning of Chao Ch’ing-yün or for the alleged assaults upon the other three Chinese. No witness could identify the two men alleged to have committed the assaults on the night of July 11, either as particular individuals or as members of the crew of the U. S. S. Guam or any other United States naval vessel, nor was Chao Ch’ing-yün identified by any witness as one of the men who was pushed into the water on this occasion.

This matter has been given the most serious attention by the various American authorities concerned and every effort has been made to ascertain the true facts of the case. The record shows that the American naval authorities took prompt action and conducted an exhaustive investigation, and that the American Consulate General at Hankow left no stone unturned to ensure that justice would be done. However, after a careful examination of the findings of the Navy Department and the American Consulate General at Hankow, as well as the reports of the Chinese officials, I am of the opinion that the evidence submitted fails to establish the responsibility of any members of the crew of the U. S. S. Guam for the death of Chao Ch’ing-yün or for the alleged assaults upon the other Chinese citizens concerned.

I avail myself [etc.]

C. E. Gauss
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Chargé in China in his despatch No. 3079, October 26, 1934; received December 1, 1934.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.